African Soul Festival held in Rohnert Park

Rohnert Park had its first ever African Soul Festival hosted by the Community Equity Foundation, Safe Harbor, and orchestrated by Master of Ceremonies Rubin Scott in honor of Mayor Jackie Elward Saturday. Alice Kibwaa handed Mayor Elward flowers as a symbol of thanks for her accomplishments on behalf of all citizens of Rohnert Park after Rubin Scott made her introduction and shared some of those accomplishments. 

On a bright, sunny warm day, the first African Soul Festival was held on Saturday, September 3 in Rohnert Park. Hosted by Rubin Scott’s Community Equity Foundation and James Coffee’s Safe Harbor, the event ran from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the City Center Plaza adjacent to the Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library. Among other things, it was a celebration of Rohnert Park’s Mayor, Jackie Elward. Scott said he hoped to make this an annual event in Rohnert Park.

Joe Sallinas opened the event with a native blessing accompanied by drum beat and chant. Sallinas was followed by Rev. Dr. H. Lee Turner, pastor of Santa Rosa’s Community Baptist Church with an opening prayer. Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. the crowd continued to grow while vendors were putting finishing touches on their displays. By 12:30 p.m. the crowd was estimated to be near 100 in attendance. At 10:45 the crowd warmed up with a Yoga and Drum performance. Just before noon, the crowd got rolling with more than a dozen participating in Zumba dancing. Also scheduled to appear later in the day were the Prayer Chapel Singers, Remain in Light, the Bobby Young Project, and Yolandra Rhodes & the Rhodes Scholars!

A wide range of vendors were on hand. Zero Waste was there. So was the Redwood Gospel Mission. The Nubian Café Collective was displaying what they called “Motherland Fabrics” and their collective works on telling the story of Africa through poets, artists, and oral storytellers. There was a Kenya Booth where according to Alice Kibwaa the group buys materials and handmade items from the village women in Kenya. They sell the items and then recycle the money to the women by buying more of their handmade wares. Cristano Arroyo from Primerica Financial Services in Santa Rosa had a booth answering financial questions and explaining “how money works.” Our Lives Matter Theater Company was also present, selling items but also hoping to find actors for their upcoming performances. 

Home base companies were also well represented. Sherna was selling aprons and Ruby Red Dees out of the East Bay run by Delores Hollingsworth was selling African attire and upcycled military jackets. She got interested in the military jackets because her father served 27 years in the Navy. African attire, jewelry, books, coffee cups, knick-knacks, fabrics, Tie-dyes, T-shirts, and Ankara clothing were all available for purchase. Red Rose Catering, a black owned business out of Santa Rosa, was the main food vendor. They were serving Fried Chicken, Catfish, and Jambalaya entrees and sides of Sweet Potato and Regular Fries or Macaroni and Cheese. Other vendors had snow cones, cotton candy, popcorn, and cheesecakes.

Asked why Scott and Coffee wanted to bring this event to Rohnert Park, Scott said, “we wanted to try something new” and “bring our culture, experience, our history to Rohnert Park in a positive, festive way.” He said this will “allow us to come together, to see we’re all part of the same community.” The dancing, the conversations, the visibility of many different community members coming together was certainly present at this first event. Since it was the first, lessons were learned. For example, much of the advertising was by word-of-mouth or social media. Scott said they certainly need to do better next year getting the word out. Some of the participants said they weren’t aware of the event until they saw it posted on social media during the event. But those who knew, and came, certainly had a wonderful time!

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